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Day trip to Matera: things to see in the European Capital of Culture 2019

Matera is located in Basilicata, one of the regions of southern Italy, and it is very easy to reach by car from Puglia: you will take about an hour driving from our villas. So, are you planning to visit Matera? Here are some tips on what to see in one day in the European Capital of Culture 2019.

A bit of history

The story of Matera over the last 60 years is marked by unbelievable events. After World War II it was known as “The shame of Italy” for its social, hygienic and healthy conditions.  The situation was so bad that the inhabitants of the “Sassi”, the current historical centre, were forced to leave their homes, often real caves, and move to the new area of the city. Then the redemption: the recovery and the repopulation until the proclamation of UNESCO world heritage site in 1993.
In the last twenty years Matera has experienced a huge tourism expansion and an increase of commercial activities and, thanks to its stunning landscape, has been the location of acclaimed movies such as the Mel Gibson “The Passion of the Christ”. The designation of European Capital of Culture 2019 will bring even more blazon and recognition to one of the most fascinating cities of southern Italy.

Things to see in Matera in one day

The large part of your daily trip to Matera will be busy visiting the “Sassi“, the historical centre of the city. The numerous caves in the city have inhabited since the Paleolithic period, in fact this area is thought to be one of the oldest human settlements in Italy. Over the centuries, many of these caves have been transformed in places of worship. Lovers of religious tourism will be enchanted by an itinerary that can take in more than 100 rupestrian churches.
Among the attractions that are definitely worth a visit there is Sasso Caveoso, one of the most ancient settlements with original caves; Casa Grotta, a perfect example of a traditional cave dwelling where a whole family lived until 1956; Rupestrian church Santa Maria de Idris, where you can admire frescos from the 14th and 15th century.
If you like trekking, the best way to end your visit to Matera is to reach Murgia Timone, the hill on the other side of the canyon. Here you will find the oldest cave dwellings of the area, some rupestrian churches and a stunning view over the Sassi from the place where the settlement of the city began.

Matera European Capital of Culture 2019

Matera European Capital of Culture 2019 Puglia Paradise

The 5 main themes of Matera 2019 are “Roots and Routes”, “Reflection and Connection”, “Continuity and Disrupture”, “Ancient Future” and “Utopias and Dystopias”. These themes are inherent to the city soul and have sub-themes, from astronomy, to the spiritual aspect linked to rupestrian churches.
There will be 4 main exhibitions. The first is called “Ars Excavandi” and is about Hypogeal cities. It will focus on the journey of man along the time and relating to Matera’s history. The second is a re-reading of the Renaissance age, focused mainly on the South of Italy and the Mediterranean area. Then there is a focus on the Greek philosopher Pitagora and prime numbers. The last exhibition will be on the Anthropocene, the new geological era, and it will have a strong environmental focus.

At this link you can find the complete program of Matera 2019 events.

What to eat and drink

wine cheese food matera

Grano duro”, hard wheat, is one of the main ingredients in Matera’s food. It is used to make pasta and bread, which is a key ingredient in dishes like the “Cialledda calda,” a kind of soup prepared with eggs, olives with garlic and bay leaf. Red chili peppers are another typical product of Matera, and they are widely used in a range of recipes. Matera is also a recommended destination for wine lovers, who appreciate the regional dishes and cheeses besides local wines.

 

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